The Continent~~Book Review

This book has had a bumpy start. No one in the publishing industry or Writer Twitter missed all the controversy surrounding this book and the original ARCs people had been able to read last year.The Continent

While I acknowledge that, (I was not one who read an original ARC) those controversies and/or original content of the book are not what this review is about.

I admit I read The Continent primarily because Ms. Drake is a friend of mine on Facebook, and I was curious to see what the book was about. I’m not able to make comparisons between the original content and what was actually published, but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed The Continent.

The book is about Vaela Sun, a 16-year-old girl who is given a tour of The Continent by her parents as a birthday gift. The Continent is home to two peoples, the Xoe and the Aven’ei. Their history is filled with war and violence.

Tours of The Continent are made to view these peoples and their constant war, as war and violence in that extreme are a novelty to the people of the Spire, where Vaela Sun lives and has grown up.

During the tour, Vaela’s plane goes down. Though her parents and their traveling companions perish in the crash, she survives and must make a new life on The Continent.

Luckily, she is taken in hand by Noro, and he, along with his Aven’ei friends, welcome her.

The threat of the Xoe is never far, and we watch as Vaela tries to meld the peace she’s grown up within the Spire to the violence she must tolerate and learn in order to survive.

I’ve read of the racial issues this book supposedly (I say supposedly because again, I haven’t read the original manuscript) contained, and I witnessed none of that here. Race (skin color) of the people of the Spire, Xoe, and Aven’ei take distance place to the story.

We see Vaela lose one family, but with her strength and determination, and never a loss of faith that life can be better, we see her find another.

Vaela learns a lot of lessons during her time on The Continent. The past doesn’t always lay the groundwork for a pleasant future. People deserve second chances, no matter what they’ve done. And with strength and perseverance, something beautiful can always be found in something ugly.

This book is no different. Do not judge this book on what you know or what you think you know about its history.

The Continent is beautiful. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.

And you will definitely want to find out what happens next.

Follow Kiera on Facebook, here.
Follow her on Goodreads, here.

And full disclosure, this is the 4-star review I left on Amazon. I was feeling a bit stabby and snarky, and a bit defensive on Keira’s behalf.
Enjoy!

This isn’t a verified purchase because I bought my copy at Barnes and Noble. (LIke you all should, if you don’t want the only remaining bookstore in America to close.)
Anyway, I’ve read the reviews, and this book ISN’T THAT BAD. There isn’t anything racist about this book, and there is not any “white savior” crap going on.
Vaela gets trapped there, okay, yes. And she saves those people, yes. But the fact that everyone is missing is, SHE FELL IN LOVE. She fell in love with Noro, she fell in love with his sister, Kiri, and she fell in love with the rest of the Noro’s people. She made friends, she became one of them. In the end, she was saving her own people.
There’s a lot of talk about her stupidity, and her naivety, but you know, most people who grow up with money are like that. And you can argue all you want against it, but Paris Hilton made herself a brand based on being spoiled, and the Kardashians are doing the same thing.
I’m not arguing that Vaela didn’t have a lot to learn, but her learning that the Spire was not all she thought it was, or that she finally understood she was a spoiled rich kid with an erroneous viewpoint of the Continent’s peoples, were part of the lesson, part of the character growth, part of the plot arc. She crawled to them and begged for help on behalf of her new family, and she was denied. It opened her eyes. And it made her grow up.
Anyone who complains this is slow–hey! It’s part of a trilogy. There are going to be unanswered questions.
Anyone who didn’t like it based on silly little things like, where did that Xoe Warrior find his orange?? How old are you? This is a YA novel. If you want a more complex plot, go read Sing, Unburied, Sing, or Lincoln in the Bardo, or Manhattan Beach. Those might be more up to your delicate sensibilities.

Let’s Talk Engagement

There has been a lot of talk of engagement on Twitter lately. What exactly is engagement? The Macmillian Dictionary defines engagement as

definition 4: the action of parts of a machine when they connect with each other or definition 6: the feeling of being involved in a particular activity.

You could even go as far as to say engagement means definition 3: a battle between armies, because, let’s face it, Writer Twitter isn’t always friendly.

 

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She’s cute, but forcing people to talk to you isn’t pretty.

No matter which definition you choose, engagement means a give and take between people or things. So when someone on Twitter says they don’t follow back without some engagement first, or they threaten to unfollow you if you don’t engage with them, what does that mean exactly?

This kind of attitude has always baffled me because first of all, they don’t understand what kind of social media tool Twitter is, and second of all, TWITTER IS F*CKING HUGE. “As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the micro-blogging service averaged at 330 million monthly active users.” Obviously, no one is going to have 330 million followers, but even in Writer Twitter, the number of people following you can grow to the double digits quickly.

 

So what does engagement really mean? What are you asking for when you expect (demand?) people to tweet with you?

i#followFriday (1)For sake of simplicity, we can pick on a relatively small account. Say you’re following 300 people. You have more people following you; let’s say this number is 1,000. We’ll keep an even number because my math is terrible. Let’s subtract the 300 you’ve followed back, leaving you with 700 people following you that you have not returned the favor to. Let’s subtract 200 of these because we’ll just assume they aren’t real people. Sexbots and whatnot. That’s 500 people, writers, potential friends, and connections, mind you, you’re not following. What if all of a sudden half those people started engaging with you.  You tweeted something funny, an article that hit home. They try to chat with you. Suddenly you have 250 people engaging with you.

What are you going to do, ignore them? This is your dream come true! You want engagement! Now you’ve got it! Oh, you say, 250 people aren’t just suddenly going to want to talk to me. Okay, fine. What about half that? What if 125 of those people started tweeting with you? Then what? You still don’t buy that? Okay, 75. It’s #FollowFriday. They haven’t been pissed off by your snotty attitude yet, so they try to get into your good graces by giving you a happy shoutout. Seventy-five #FollowFriday happy weekend shoutouts. Yee-haw!

i#followFridayYou better believe you respond to these people because this is what you wanted, right? All right, I know I’m being facetious, but let’s be real for a minute. Even if you had 25 people on a daily basis wanting to tweet with you, that’s a huge time suck. There are days, like #FollowFriday, or #WriterWednesday, where I do get quite a few notifications, and I do have to take the time to sit and thank everyone. I’m getting to the point where I may not be able to always answer all my notifications, but for now, I’m trying my best. I respect my followers, as should you. Someone thought you were interesting enough to follow, or you’re part of Writer Twitter, whatever, and you thank them by . . . ignoring them. Nice.

I admit, you can look at my numbers, and see my following and followers are not even. And that is fine. Some are bots, some are huge accounts I know will drop me after they get a follow back, huge marketers with 100K following/followers, writers who only tweet their books and nothing else. Yes, I do not follow those accounts. And I’m not suggesting that you do.

I follow back writers, readers, bloggers, agents, anyone human related to the reading/writing/self-publishing/traditional-publishing industry.

What I am suggesting is that with an engagement entitlement attitude, you do not.

I get that if you’re a big-time author you’re not going to follow back everyone. I was lucky and Karen M. McManus followed me, or vice versa, before she became famous. You can see that she’s no longer following everyone who follows her. I was lucky, and I’m able to tweet with her now and then.

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Buy Karen’s awesome book here!

 

So, why do I have a problem with this attitude, this need for engagement on Twitter? Because it’s the wrong platform for it. I’ve suggested to a few people on Twitter that if they want to keep their groups small, then they should invite 200 of their nearest and dearest and form a private group on Facebook. Chat away until your heart’s content, and you won’t have to worry about those pesky people wanting a follow back without saying hi first.

Twitter and Facebook are different.

Twitter is used for quickly exchanging information. Read an excellent blog post about editing, tweet it! Found a shortcut for formatting? Share it. Twitter is also for supporting your colleagues. Congratulate someone on their new release. If someone has a question, and you just read a book about it, let them know! Twitter has it set up now that tweets pop in your feed from people whom you do not follow. They did this to broaden your horizons and help you find more people to connect with. Don’t be annoyed by it! Use it to find your next Critique Partner or Beta Reader. If you need something, would you rather be able to ask 200 people, or 10K? Build up your account. Spread out your reach.

i#followFriday (2)Twitter is like being at a gigantic party! Grab a drink and say hello to everyone. You may not exchange business cards with every person you meet, but you never know when you’re going to make a connection. Or know someone who knows someone who can help you. It only takes a moment to follow back a living, breathing writer.

Do not insist on engagement. Twitter isn’t made to be a small group of people, your profile open to the public, and anyone can enter.

If you want privacy, switch over to Facebook and start a small writer’s group there. Share resources, tips and editing, vent. You’ll be happier.

I adore tweeting with people. Maybe I’ll only tweet with them once or twice and they’ll slip away, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. They’ll pop back up one day, and then I’ll be the one to say hi.

And I’ll just make one last point before I go–you’re a part of Writer Twitter. Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to be, oh I don’t know, writing? Insisting on engagement isn’t fair to the people on Twitter who spend the bulk of their time either working their day job, taking care of kids, and in the little time they have left, writing. Don’t punish your connections for doing what you should be doing, too.

Come say hi to me on Twitter and tell me what you think! I’ll see you there!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

The Four Kinds of Indie Author

When I first entered the world of indie writers/publishing, I was dazzled. I thought anyone who published, published good books. I mean, I hadn’t been exposed to anything but traditionally published books, so of course, I was naive and not aware that with self-publishing, there isn’t a gatekeeper, and people can, and did, publish whatever they wanted.

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As I began reading indie, I realized there are four types of indie authors.

  1. The indie who writes poorly in an uncommon genre.
    To me, this is a double-edged sword of bad. And I’m not even talking about poorly written erotica–that’s a different category of writer. No, I’m talking about the poor writer who writes Bigfoot Romance, or anybody having sex with something that is not human, be it squids, dinosaurs, ghosts, aliens. Though alien romance is becoming more popular these days. Or other genres like a romance between a

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    I know, baby. It makes me sick, too.

    kidnapper and a hostage, or a specific kind of mystery/thriller where hamsters solve crimes. Not only is the writing bad, the genre is just as weird, and even if you, as a writer, could find a readership, your poor writing would turn them off. These are the writers who experiment and just throw up (literally and figuratively) anything they want. These are the writers who give indie writers a bad name, and without gatekeepers, they will continue to do so.
    Examples: Let’s not do that to ourselves, shall we?

  2. The indie who writes poorly in a popular genre.
    This isn’t terrible. I’ve heard time and time again that a good story or good pacing can save a book in a popular genre. Readers are willing to overlook a lot if they like your characters or the storyline, or you have a great twist that blows people’s minds. In a popular genre, you can find readers, or at the very least, at some point, someone may bump into you. Readers may not put you on their favorite list, and you may very well lose readers even if elements of your story are fantastic. Life is too short to read crappy books, and readers are realizing this. Too bad these writers

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    One rotten fruit in the whole bunch.

    can’t/won’t give their careers more of a chance and find an editor. Even trade beta reading with some proofreading is better than nothing.

    Examples: Well, EL James is a good one. There’s no disagreeing her writing could have used better editing. But her storyline was good, her characters solid. If someone could have gone and deleted all her adverbs, reading her books would have been a more enjoyable experience.

  3. The indie who writes well in an uncommon genre.
    It makes me sad when I see writers do this. It shouldn’t because they are writing what they like, and that’s the whole point of writing, right? That’s my writing to market side coming out, and far be it from me to judge someone’s genre choice. Being a good writer will give you readership, uncommon genre or not, just

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    Stand out!

    probably not as big if you write mainstream fiction. There’s always going to be someone who gets off reading your story about sex with dogs (pun intended) or your fabulously written story about forbidden sex with your brother. But one would hope that if you have writing chops, you branch out so more people can discover your talent.

    Examples: Let’s Do Butt Stuff. Of course I read this! I’m totally not afraid to admit it. *shifty eyes* Argh. Delilah Dallas has a decent voice. It’s a short story, and I read it all the way through. She could do well if she branched out into longer, maybe less weird, work. And I guess anal isn’t an “uncommon” genre, but it’s very niche and can be limiting.
    There was something else I read on Smashwords that struck me as good writing, and it was about a woman who had sex with her husband’s dog. I can’t find the author now, and after Smashwords went through and started being more strict with their erotica genres, they could have buried it. But the good writing stuck out to me, (no pun intended) and even after a couple years of stumbling upon it, I still remember the writing for what it was. And this story just goes to show that if she had written mainstream romance, perhaps I could have found it, maybe even recommended her writing. After all, I can’t tell someone how much I liked the writing if I can’t find it anymore.

  4. The indie writer who writes well in a popular genre.
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    Being the same can have some advantages.

    You would think this is where every indie would want to be. You stand the most to gain writing well in a genre that has lots of readers. Of course, it’s also difficult to get recognized in a saturated genre, but if you can make a name for yourself, you’ll have readers for the rest of your writing career.

    Examples: Citing examples for this genre is almost unfair because most of these authors have done it for years. Lauren Blakely, Kira Blakely, Mark Dawson. You might mistake Lauren Blakely for a trad-pubbed author, but her paperbacks are published by CreateSpace, as are Kira Blakely’s. Both have made a list. You could almost do a study on what all they are doing, and how that has worked for them in terms of “making it.” Covers, prolific releases, etc. Consistency.  They both write romance.
    Mark Dawson is also prolific, and publishes his paperbacks with CreateSpace, pegging him an indie. But his books have been picked up for a TV series, and, yeah, he’s been able to quit his day job. He writes in the thriller genre.
    I’m sure there are lesser known indies out there who are starting solid careers writing well in a genre well-received.

In conclusion, you have to decide what you want for and from your writing career. You may not want to “make it” and are fine publishing naughty short stories about fish. Maybe you’ll have three or four people read your stuff, and that’s good enough for you. No one can define your idea of success except you. If you’re happy writing books that only your friends and family will buy because you’re not interested in . . . how do I say this without sounding judgmental or derogatory . . . if you’re not interested in putting in the work to do better, then that’s your choice.

There’s no excuse for poor writing. Learning your craft can only help you find more readers, no matter your genre.

Good luck you Butt Stuff writers!

 

Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success by Jennifer Probst–A book review

Every writer could use a guidebook, a map, perhaps a mentor who can say, “If it were me I do this.”

I read Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success last year, but as a series of book reviews I’m starting for my blog, I pulled it out again and reread some of my favorite chapters.write naked

In Write Naked, Jennifer Probst takes you through from the beginning of her career, when she didn’t think she would make it, to present time, when indeed she has made it, evidence being she’s able to add best-selling author after her name.

It’s gratifying to know that even a best-selling author has fears, flaws, and has made mistakes, but being she has made it to the other side, she also gives us tips and tricks to overcome our fears and if you really want this thing called a writing career, what to do to achieve it.

Some of my favorite chapters include:

Chapter 4
Green With Envy
Jennifer acknowledges that yes, writing is a community, but that community is steeped in jealousy, cruelty, and fear. I see it on Twitter. I read it in a poor book review by another author, sometimes even a malicious review. I see it in the passive-aggressive interactions between me and my other writer friends. Pretty soon you don’t know whom to trust, who really is happy for you and your success. Jennifer writes a chapter on this–a very honest and forthcoming chapter. She says on page 34 of the paperback  . . .  “jealousy . . .  is an endless vicious cycle.” Don’t let it consume you; there will always be someone doing better than you, and you will always be doing better than someone else.

Chapter 5
The Write Path
1. You’ll make mistakes. Costly mistakes.
2. Overnight success is never overnight.
3. Once you reach the top, there is nowhere to go but down.

This may seem like a downer of a chapter, and perhaps it is. Jennifer reminds you that a writer’s journey is tough. There is a reason why writing is compared to running a marathon or climbing a mountain. Your journey takes a ton of preparation–years of writing, years of learning the craft, refining your work. It takes many books. One foot in front of the other for years. Then what do you do when you reach the top of the mountain? When you bury a flagpole in the summit and can call yourself a success? You climb down and do it all over again.

Chapter 8
Trademarks of Bestselling Authors
There are no shortcuts. Sit down, do the work. But what is the work? Jennifer, along with other romance authors, gives you an idea of what it takes to get where they are. This chapter includes writing advice, networking tips, and thinking about writing as a career, not a hobby.

Chapter 12
The Indie Revolution
Jennifer did publish as an indie author, and she gives her readers a few tips on how to publish a good book. You may not like what she has to say, but all of her advice has merit. Probably the biggest takeaway from this chapter is indies need to remember they are writing for readers. You want and need them to like your books. Publish accordingly.

Toward the end of the book, say the last third or fourth, Jennifer goes into what makes a romance book an addicting read. Snappy first lines, lovable characters. Setting up and delivering on a hook, keeping up the sexual tension, keeping your middle from sagging. She touches very briefly on all these and more, so if you think you have any of these issues in your own writing, find other craft books to study with, because these chapters tell you what I know many don’t want to hear – write a good book and keep reader expectations in mind as you write. As with any genre, there are tropes and rules you must follow, or all you’ll do is make your reader mad, and that could result in a bad review.

Jennifer’s last chapter is Happy Endings. She coaches you on how to end your book on the best note possible. But finishing one book isn’t the end! There will always be another book to write, another mountain to climb, another race to run.

Jennifer-Probst-2-1Jennifer won her gold medal, and she tries for another every time she sits down to write.

I recommend reading this book in its entirety, and I pull it out every now and again for a pick-me-up or a reality check.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Thanks for reading! Do you have any books from authors you like to read that give you tips or a much-needed reality check? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

Toxic People–How Do We Get Them Out of Our Lives?

Humans are creatures of habit. We like to park in the same parking spot every day, be it at work, school, the shopping mall. We buy the same seat locations for movies. We use the same person at the salon.

It’s the same thing for the people we interact with. We all have that friend from elementary school, we brag we’ve been married for 10+ years, we’re still in touch with college professors, even though you’ve been graduated for twenty years. We latch on to people, and we can’t let go.

But what if that person we meet at our coffee klatch, or writing group, or your daughter’s best friend’s mother, what if that person you thought to be a good friend . . . isn’t?

You know the one I’m talking about, even if you don’t want to admit it. That friend who never has anything nice to say about your work. That friend who can’t compliment you unless it compliments her. That friend who can’t do anything nice for anyone unless she benefits from it as well, in some way. That person who promised you she would do something and never does, though she’s full of apologies.

That kind of behavior can sneak up on you, and maybe it takes years. And maybe that person is so fully ensconced in your life that booting them to the curb seems . . . maybe a little too dramatic. I mean, after all, it’s not really harmful they treat you that way. Is it? If they hurt your feelings, that’s not on them, it’s on you for being too sensitive. Because she did do that one thing for you a few months back, though it was a couple weeks too late, and you didn’t need it by then, but she made the effort, right?

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Maybe you’re part of a group, and others can’t see her for what she is, and if you extricate yourself from the group, you won’t just be rid of her, but you’ll lose a couple of good friends.

And maybe, this is what will always be in the back of your mind, WHAT IF SHE TREATS OTHERS BETTER THAN SHE TREATS YOU.  That this isn’t just her personality, but something personal she thinks and feels toward you? She kicks you, and you come back for more because that one thing was a fluke, and she’ll never do it again. Only, she does. But they are small things, a back-handed compliment, a comment that doesn’t quite sit well with you, but maybe you’re touchy because you’ve had a bad day, and you keep brushing them off.

The thing is, you’re not imagining this stuff. It’s how that person is really treating you. Once you can face it, once you can fully understand that it is HER and not YOU, you need to figure out what to do about it. This “friendship” has probably been years in the making, and you just realized after one too many pretty insults that you can’t take it anymore. But she’s a major stakeholder in your life now. You talk all the time. Your kids have playdates. Maybe your husband is best friends with yours. These are real-life examples, but I’ve been burned by people I’ve met online. Sometimes dumping someone in real-life is easier than online. You stop answering texts, you stop going on double dates. If it’s your daughter’s best friend’s mother, think of it as a favor to your daughter. How is your daughter’s friend going to grow up with a catty woman like that for a mom?

No, online is a bit different because I’m swimming in an aquarium of writers (sometimes there are sharks in there!), where everyone knows everyone else, and cutting someone out of your life means not knowing what they are doing anymore. Professionally. You don’t want to miss what they are going to do next, what kind of contacts they make. Because not only could something they know help you, it could elevate your career to the next level. And this isn’t a joke. Networking is important. It’s important in any career–it’s why all industries have conferences, retreats, etc. So this isn’t in your head, and it’s okay to have FEAR OF MISSING OUT when you think of cutting someone out of your life.

But honestly, how much of a career will you have if you are not taking care of your mental health? Being a writer is hard enough as it is without having to suit up in armor every time you jump online.

Here are a couple tips to help you sweep out that pesky person who just cannot be nice.

  1. Shake things up in your real life first. Park in a different parking spot at work. Take the kids to school using a different route. Try a new restaurant. Doing small things like this can alter your brain’s neuropathways, and you can teach yourself that change isn’t bad. Especially change you instigate yourself. Studies show that you can handle change better when you start it. I’m not saying dump her before she can dump you, but disentangling yourself from that kind of friendship may be easier on you if you do it, rather than if she does it a few months or years down the road. Other ideas: Take your evening walk in the morning. Walk it backward. Not backward backward, you could hurt yourself! But from finish to start. If you take road trips with your sister and always head east, go west. This is good for your writer’s brain. You’ll discover more, engage more with your surroundings.
  2. If you truly do fear for your professional career, take matters into your own hands. Book a writer’s conference, follow a few more influencers and leaders in the writing community, add another publishing podcast to your playlist. If you can fill the hole not talking to your “friend” anymore will create, it won’t be so hard to say goodbye.
  3. Make new friends. Twitter has a gazillion users, start talking to some of them! Start a book club on Facebook, or start an online writer’s group that will share promo sites, inexpensive cover designers, editors that will swap work with you. Whatever you think you are going to miss from your friend, there are others who know just as much or more than she does.
  4. You do have people in your life that mean more to you than she does, so cultivate those relationships. Maybe you haven’t spoken to your old walking buddy in some time, or that coworker you used to like to hang out in the breakroom with, but she got a new job and you haven’t spoken with her since she left.

Fear of missing out is a real thing, but it’s still just in your head. It comes from being chosen last during gym class at school, or your friends ganging up on your on the playground. It comes from people flocking around a writer who just got an agent, and you feel left out in the cold. No one wants to be excluded. But the fact is, no one puts all their problems online–you only know the shiny parts, what they choose to display. Insecurity, jealousy, and fear are probably three of the main reasons your “friend” treats you the way she does. That’s not an excuse but a reason. Maybe she has a serious case of writer’s block, and she hasn’t written for months, or maybe sales weren’t what she thought they’d be during release week, and she’s jealous of your KU page reads. It could be anything. But the fact is, you don’t have to put up with it.

You don’t need to burn bridges or start tweeting or posting derogatory things about her. Or tweeting subliminal tweets about how good friends should behave. You don’t even need to unfollow (on Twitter) or block. Facebook makes it easy to stay friends with someone but not see their posts anymore. Unlike her author page. You can be a grownup about it; just stop engaging. Because you and she are both part of a community, and there’s no point in slinging mud. Be civil. Chances are she may not notice. Chances are she has a lot of friends and a few weeks of distancing yourself may just do the trick because she’s friends with a lot of different people.

Probably the biggest piece of advice I have for you is this: social media is good for networking, for getting to know people, for learning the tools of your craft and business, but overall, social media doesn’t sell books. If you’re in it to sell books, you need to write more and find ads and promo sites that work for you. Networking can help you do that, but that’s all it has to offer. Social media can be a support or a distraction, but it won’t skyrocket you to bestseller status. Only you can do that, in front of your laptop–writing.

Do you have other tips to help ignore or get rid of toxic people in your life? Let me know!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

 

Swearing, Sex, and Drinking . . . What Do Your Characters Do?

I’ve always appreciated a well-timed, or a well-placed, “Fuck.” Especially when it’s supposed to be funny.

When I was in my lower teens, I read a lot, and I read one book where the character–and for the life of me I can’t remember who it was (I want to say it was Detective J. P. Beaumont, in the detective series by J. A. Jance, but it could have been in any of the books I read back then) who said, “Jesus Christ on a bicycle.” It cracked me up, and to this day, if I hear it, or if I read it, I laugh.

The phrase may be offensive to some, hell, I went to Baptist school as a kid and just for a split second, I was offended too, until my sense of humor won out.

My characters swear, and sometimes they swear a lot. This is a bit unusual, as I don’t swear much, in real life, and a lot of times our characters are us, or pieces of us. My amount of swearing depends on who I’m with. I don’t swear around my kids unless I’m telling them to stop being pissy, a futile plea, that, as they are teenagers. But my sister swears like a truck driver (is this really true?) and when she starts saying the F word, it starts coming out of my mouth, too.

I like to try to make my characters swear for a reason. They’re grumpy, or angry, or I, too, like to use a well-placed swear word for comedic effect. Take this excerpt, for instance, from the book I’m writing now, Wherever He Goes:

When Aiden came out of the bathroom, Kat was studying the cappuccino selections across the store. The gas station sold a huge selection of Monster energy drinks, and just as he opened the door to grab his usual, a low-carb flavor, the bell over the door rang.
“Nobody move!”
In the round fish-lens mirror attached to the wall above the restrooms, Aiden watched a tall figure dressed in black aim a handgun at the older lady staring out the window behind the counter.
Aiden rested his forehead against the chilled glass of the cooler.
“Shit.”

Not everyone wants to read characters swearing though, and sometimes the readers who come across it can take it out on you in a bad review:

swearing review

This is a review for Don’t Run Away, book one in my Tower City Romance Trilogy. Never once did I say I write sweet/inspirational romance. I write contemporary, and that is the category my books are labeled under. I don’t try to fool anyone. A lot, if not most, contemporary romances have some kind of swearing and/or intimacy. In fact, had this reader used the Look Inside feature on Amazon, they would have known right away this book contained sex and swearing, maybe even both at the same time (gasp!). The book is long enough I’m going to assume the first two chapters are available.

I didn’t redo my blurb, per that reviewer’s request, simply for the fact that the category I put it under shouldn’t give a prospective reader any false illusions.

But it did make me wonder why readers are so sensitive, and if writers respond to it, or if they still do their own thing.

I read a Harlequin Blaze not long ago, and the author used the word pussy. It’s not such a big deal in the scheme of things–the series’ name says it all, to my way of thinking. But the person who read the book before me inked out all the words she didn’t agree with. I wish I had taken a picture.

When I think of swear words in content, I think about a lot of programs on the CW. I watched Gossip Girl from beginning to end (the show; I haven’t read the books to compare), and I watched a lot of The Vampire Diaries (also the same, watched the show, didn’t read the books).

The writers of Gossip Girl had a fun time throwing in curse words that weren’t curse words. Blair was forever calling Chuck Bass a Basshole. We know what she meant, but in all the episodes I ever watched, she never, ever, came out and actually called anyone an asshole.

basshole

Another favorite was when people would call Chuck a Motherchucker. This one, too, is pretty self-explanatory.

blair waldorf

Why the creators wanted to keep the show “clean” is beyond me, as all the characters drank like fish–whether they were old enough or not. The same is true for The Vampire Diaries–even though I guess you could say that Stefan and Damon were “old enough” to drink, even while portraying high school students. When you Google “Damon and Stefan drinking” there are a lot of images that come up. I could post pictures all day of them knocking back scotch!

damon drinking

And while Elena starts the show at 17-18, I would assume she turns 21 at some point. But her age doesn’t stop her from having a little fun.

elena drinking

These characters were also having sex, some of it open door, some of it not, but it surprises me that the creators would show, or even imply, underaged sex.

So, underaged sex is . . . not worse than swearing?

What is a reader’s tolerance when it comes to books? I think swearing is natural–you can’t get away from it in real life, and writing a few curse words into your books could crank up the reality factor a notch or two.

Depending on your genre, sex, too, is also natural. A detective in a high-stakes thriller could have sex to take the edge off. Most romances and chick-lit have sex in them, sometimes even funny sex. Erotica has the most sex, of course, and it’s up to the author to submit their books to the proper category when publishing.

My characters drink–probably not as much as they do in The Vampire Diaries, but they like to have a drink now and then. So do I.

Everything in moderation.

It’s a concept the Salvatore brothers didn’t understand, but I guess, there’s nothing else to do in a small town like Mystic Falls.

Taste is subjective, and it’s easy to get freaked out by a poor review, but what an average amount of swearing is to one could be an overuse to another. Contemporary romance is light on sex, but I have yet to read a contemporary romance where the couple didn’t do it at least once.  How graphic the scene turns out to be is up to the author.

I expect swearing, sex, and drinking in the books I read.

How about you?

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

 

 

If you’re interested, the New York Times printed an article about sex, or lack thereof, in current YA. You can read it here.

The fuckety index: how much bad language is allowed in your novel?

For Fuck’s Sake! – The Art Of Swearing And Cursing In Fiction Writing

How to Use Profanity And Other Raw Talk In Your Fiction

Author Interview–Aila Stephens

Everyone loves to hear how a launch goes. Was it successful? How many books did they sell their first day? Their first week? How many page reads did they have if they were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited?

Book launches are exciting.
◊Cover reveal!
◊Excerpts!
◊Author interviews!
◊Blog tours!

But what about after? There is always going to be someone else who releases a book and our attention will be jerked away by a shiny new cover.

What happens after the launch? What happens months after the first week of sales? How does an author keep the momentum going?

I spoke with author Aila Stephens to find out. Listen in—maybe she’ll tell us all her secrets.

astericks

You launched Sex, Love, and Formalities, the companion to Sex, Love, and Technicalities in November of 2017. How did that launch go for you? Can you give us a quick rundown of what you did to prepare? You hosted a giveaway, as well, correct?

Sure! I drank a lot of coffee. I panicked a little…no, no. I mean, yes, I did those things, but really, I talked Formalities up on social media a little more than I did when I launched its’ predecessor. I had much better-looking bookmarks printed up, and I spent a little more time and money on the book trailer than I did for the first one. I love having a book trailer for my books. It’s mostly a total vanity thing, but they’re still fairly rare in the indie community. Giveaways are pretty hit or miss, I don’t think that’s a secret, but I look at them as a necessary evil.

I did have a giveaway. It’s no secret that giveaways are pretty hit or miss, and there’s never any rhyme or reason to how many participants you get, but this one had decent participation. I gave away two signed copies of my books along with coffee and tea, a mug, and even a nice shawl to throw over the shoulders as it was quickly turning wintertime.

That was a great giveaway! I was bummed I couldn’t enter. You also did a free book promo for book one during the launch of book two using some of your free days allowed to you in the KDP Select program. Can you explain how you promoted that, if you did? If I remember correctly, your stats for that free book were rather impressive.

I promoted using Twitter and my Facebook author page.

I am going to strangle myself for this, but I cannot for the life of me remember exactly how many free copies of Technicalities were downloaded during those days, but it was several hundred—maybe even closing in on a thousand. I’d tell you concretely, but apparently, Amazon won’t let me go back that far. Whatever it was, the top ranking I got on Amazon that day was #14, for Women’s Fictions > Crime, and I believe it was #20 for Women’s Fiction > Romance.

That’s fantastic! Did your free promotion for book one bolster sales for book two?

In the weeks following that free promotion, I did have several thousand “normalized pages” of Formalities being read on Kindle Unlimited, which was very nice.

…If only all those free books and KU pages led to reviews, right?

It’s hard to tell if the sales of Formalities since then have been directly related to that free promotion, though I suspect most are.

Did you find it easier to launch book two since it was a sequel?

I did. I had so many—so very many—mistakes I learned from with Technicalities. I think that’s kind of a great thing though, learning from one’s own mistakes. I made a few with Formalities which I hope to avoid with the next book, and I’m sure I’ll make some with it that I’ll try and avoid with the one after that…and so on and so forth.

What are you doing, four months after your launch, to keep sales going? And are your methods working?

Still drinking coffee, still panicking. Ha! No. It’s not in my nature to go for the hard-sell. I do share pictures of my covers from time to time on Instagram, though it’s fruitless. What I think has helped me the most to see continued sells and KU reads has been my blog. I didn’t have the best track record of consistently blogging, but after my launch, I decided to make blogging my second priority to writing more books. I blog every Monday and every other Thursday. I’m still trying to wean myself from blogging just to other writers and figuring out how the heck you blog for readers, but I digress.

At the end of every blog post I include a small, hopefully unobtrusive, advertisement I made for my books and I link it to them on Amazon. I have noticed that I usually sell something on Tuesdays and/or Fridays, and my KU pages have remained rather steady.

This is a comfortable way for me to garner attention to my books without me feeling like a spam-artist.

Again…if only those translated to reviews.

What have you learned from either of your books to help you launch and maintain momentum for your next book?

I want to give a little more time between finishing the book and launching the book. With this next one I want to seek out ARC reviewers on YouTube (which, honestly, excites me and kills me a little on the inside), and I also want to spread out smaller, but still impressive, giveaways. I am still researching some launch tactics, but these are the main ones I intend to employ this go-round.

Do you have any tips for those who are seeing declining sales after their launch?

I would ask them what they’re doing to keep putting it in front of people. Like I said, there isn’t a soul out there who can say I’ve sent them an auto-DM going, BUY MY BOOK!! But I endeavor to have a quality blog I drive traffic to several times a month, in the hopes that by the time someone gets to the bottom, they’re intrigued enough to take a look at my books.

You can’t publish a book and then expect people to find it without a little elbow grease.

Have you ruled out paying for ads or promotions?

Not at all! I just don’t want to do it for two books. Once my next book comes out, I’ll shell out a little money for advertising and see what comes of it. Three is by no means the magic number, but I will chalk it up to research, too. I can’t afford to be anything except financially prudent with this, but I’m excited to see what happens with it.

I’ve read the best advertisement to promote your work is to write another book. Do you believe this is true?

Absolutely. I wish I had the ability to write full-time so I could crank them out faster. I think in today’s world, we’re all so accustomed to instant-satisfaction that we don’t want to fall in love with a book or an author if they’re not producing anything else. It’d be like watching The Paradise on Netflix and falling in love with it only to learn they shucked it after two seasons. We binge-watch in this day and age, and readers binge-read. This is why there is so much advice out there saying book series are the moneymakers.

…says the girl writing a standalone book right now.

Think of Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird is a priceless piece of American literature, but for the longest time—fifty-five years!—there was only one published out there by Ms. Lee. I don’t know how well that sort of publishing schedule would work in this day and age. 😉

I guess the secret is to write such a thought-provoking, moving book, that your book is mandatory reading in all schools! Thanks, Aila, for taking the time to chat with me!

Vania, thank you so much for sitting down with me again for such a lovely interview! I am always honored and humbled that someone of your talent and expertise has time for little ol’ me.

And to all of your amazing readers, thank you so much for taking the time to get to know me!

Love ya, mean it!  -Aila

Aila always makes me blush. I hope you enjoyed her interview and maybe learned a little something about how to keep the momentum after your launch from drifting away. Help keep her momentum up by downloading free copies of her books here (March 27 and 28) and give her Amazon profile a follow while you’re there. 🙂

Aila is leaving her mark all over the interwebs, and you can follow her Instagram account, Tweet with her on Twitter, like her Facebook author page, and definitely give her blog a peek. She’s in the middle of a wonderful writers’ resources series you don’t want to miss!

Thanks for reading!

 

Quotes taken from the websites in the photo captions, and photos taken from http://www.pixabay.com and http://www.unsplash.com. Graphics created with these photos in http://www.canva.com.